The day Eduardo Rodriguez gave the Red Sox some optimism

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There is little room for interpretation. Eduardo Rodriguez is absolutely one of the most important players on this Red Sox team.

He is the most logical path toward finding an ace, the guy who Alex Cora can stick at the top of the rotation and have a fair amount of confidence that there will 200 good innings around the corner.

It's why a Grapefruit League on March 5 actually meant something.

Making his spring training debut -- and first appearance since battling myocarditis last summer -- Rodriguez looked like he picked up where he left off last March. The lefty glided through his 47 pitches, with the only major hiccup coming in the form of a Moises Gomez homer.

"When I went out there with Vazqy (catcher Christian Vazquez), we were by the bullpen warming up and I told him, ‘Bro, I feel chills. I feel all that right now. Like I’m making my MLB debut right now," said Rodriguez, who gave up two hits while striking out a pair in 2 2/3 innings. “And he told me, ‘No, don’t worry. That’s part of it.’ I feel that every start, but today was a little bit more exciting."

"I was happy that he was able to compete at this level," Cora said. "More than happy that he went 2 2/3 innings. To be able to compete, to repeat his delivery. The good thing about Eddie s that it’s very simple with him, delivery-wise. Like I used to tell you guys in ’19, he’s a guy we can trust that he can go deep into games and his pitch count can get up there. Today was a good start. Although he pitched two innings in a simulated game a week ago. To go out and compete this way, it was good."

The ease in which Rodriguez approached Tampa Bay hitters was noticeable, showing good command while popping a fastball that lived between 91-93 mph.

It offered the same image the lefty left behind during Spring Training 1.0 of last season, when he allowed just two runs over 11 innings, striking out 20.

It was a huge step in the right direction, both both Rodriguez (who is likely slated to start Opening Day on April 1) and the Red Sox.

'I just wanted that to run out of my body, that’s all that mattered to me, just thinking of taking that out of my body, take the rest and do what the doctor said,” said Rodriguez. “And thanks to God, we did it and you see we went out there for [almost three innings]. That’s all that mattered to me right now."